Sony HT-A7000 soundbar assessment: Superior sound for the 8K set

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There are soundbars you purchase merely to enhance upon the stereo sound coming out of your TV. From there, dozens upon dozens of step-up choices enhance the extent of surround-sound channels, wi-fi connectivity, output wattage, and so forth. There’s a closing tier, nonetheless, that stretches the bounds of the product class, providing a house theater sound system inside a single, sizable unit. The Sony HT-A7000 soundbar matches into this final class, letting you commerce the receivers, amplifiers, satellite tv for pc audio system, and so on., that used to stack up beneath and across the TV for a self-contained showpiece. 

With its top- and side-firing audio system, this new Sony flagship is able to delight dwelling viewers trying to find a 7.1.2 system that received’t take up all the room. Help for all the most recent object-based, immersive audio codecs—Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Actuality Audio, and so on.—makes films and music pop inside a bigger spatial context. The HT-A7000’s inner digital sign processing (DSP) additionally upconverts any audio to make full use of its speaker array. It additionally provides app management, voice management, and a mess of wi-fi connectivity, together with Bluetooth and WiFi. Sony additionally makes wi-fi subwoofers and rear audio system that seamlessly connect with the soundbar, and convey general funding to greater than $2,000. However whether or not you broaden it or not, the Sony HT-A7000 stands out within the highest echelon of soundbars.

The Sony HT-A7000 soundbar’s design

From the surface, the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar conveys glossy minimalism, with a metallic grill masking the entrance of the 51-inch vast, 19-pound soundbar. Cloth covers the side- and top-firing audio system on both finish and there’s a shiny end on high the place there are six touch-sensitive controls that get you thru the fundamental features, together with energy, quantity, Bluetooth pairing, and enter choice. Lastly, a small, blue LED show peeks out of the entrance grill to point quantity ranges, chosen enter, {surround} sound mode, and so forth.

However probably the most spectacular facets of Sony’s design lie inside, the place the digital 7.1.2 soundbar’s 11 powered speaker channels ship 500W of complete output throughout 5 front-facing audio system, two up-firing audio system, two “beam” tweeters on the perimeters, and an inner dual-channel subwoofer. The oblong form of X-Balanced Speaker Items makes that subbass punchier, vocals clearer, and distortion decrease, in response to Sony’s claims.

Audio/video connections are tucked away in an indent on the again of the soundbar. These embrace two HDMI 2.1 passthrough inputs that help 8K video at 60Hz, 4K at 120Hz, and Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR, which makes the HT-A7000 an acceptable gaming soundbar for the latest-generation consoles just like the Xbox Sequence X and Ps 5. It must be famous, nonetheless, that the HT-A7000 doesn’t but help VRR (Variable Refresh Fee) or ALLM (Auto Low-Latency Mode), two HDMI 2.1 game-centric options. Sony guarantees a firmware replace in Spring 2022 that hopefully will add each.

There are additionally analog and digital optical audio inputs, HDMI eARC TV output, and an S-Heart output for integrating suitable TVs (similar to some Sony BRAVIA fashions) as a further heart channel of the general audio combine. There are wall-mounting sockets across the again however wall-mounting {hardware} (brackets, screws, and so on.) is offered individually.

The back of the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar
A mix of bodily and wi-fi connections provides the most recent requirements for high-resolution listening.

Getting began with the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar

The HT-A7000 comes with a distant management, energy cable, and an HDMI cable—sufficient to get you up and operating by connecting the soundbar’s HDMI out to your TV’s HDMI eARC/ARC enter. The 2 HDMI inputs incorporate your streaming media field, sport console, Blu-ray participant, or different parts.

As soon as every little thing was arrange, my Samsung Sensible TV distant might activate the HT-A7000 and TV, plus management the soundbar’s quantity. Nonetheless, not like different dwelling theater system remotes, the HT-A7000 distant wouldn’t conversely activate the Samsung TV, making a one-remote state of affairs untenable.

For the most effective immersive audio outcomes, a soundbar’s top-firing audio system and side-firing beam tweeters must replicate off of a ceiling and partitions which can be neither too shut nor too far. Nonetheless, Sony tells HT-A7000 customers to not fear about that an excessive amount of, as a result of upon establishing, it takes you thru a sequence of tones, from which the built-in microphone and DSP measure the reflections off of your room’s surfaces to optimize the unit’s {surround} sound combine on your house.

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After it powers up, the HT-A7000 enters an onscreen consumer interface, the place you may choose from the video inputs—TV, HDMI 1, and HDMI 2—or from a litany of audio inputs—together with USB, analog, Spotify, Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Amazon Alexa, and Sony 360 Actuality Audio. The distant management additionally has shortcut buttons for the video inputs, USB, Bluetooth, and probably the most lately used streaming music service. Chromecast, AirPlay 2, and the USB port are just for taking part in audio, not video. With suitable Sony BRAVIA TVs (for instance, the XR A90J), the HT-A7000 integrates all its controls and onscreen consumer interface into the TV for smoother management.

Key options of the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar

The digital 7.1.2-channel HT-A7000 works with all the main Dolby and DTS surround-sound codecs, together with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, in addition to the rising Sony 360 Actuality Audio format. Nonetheless, built-in DSP, which Sony calls the Vertical Encompass Engine, converts any audio materials to make the most of the complete 7.1.2 channels, making any piece of music or video benefit from the soundbar’s top-firing audio system and facet beam tweeters. The distant management’s   Immersive AE (Audio Enhancement) button activates this perform. Even on materials that’s already formatted for all of the channels, similar to Dolby Atmos films and music, Immersive AE nonetheless provides a lift of overhead spaciousness to the soundstage. I preferred utilizing the Immersive AE perform on nearly all of the music and movies I performed, excluding some reside speak reveals the place the viewers’s laughter and applause have been too excessive within the combine.

Connection and compatibility choices

Sony makes it simple to benefit from the HT-A7000 in virtually any approach you like, with all kinds of connection and compatibility choices out there. Along with the 2 HDMI ports, plus digital and analog audio inputs, you too can join with a bevy of wi-fi applied sciences. Most of these choices, in addition to the USB port, are for audio solely, and USB playback works with nearly each widespread compressed, uncompressed, and lossless audio file format, with the notable exception of Apple’s ALAC.

For wi-fi music, you may playback high-resolution audio saved on a pc over Wi-Fi by connecting the HT-A7000 to your own home community. The easy Music Music Heart app (out there for iOS and Android) helps you to play high-resolution audio saved on a cellular gadget, in addition to supplies soundbar controls. Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast help are additionally inbuilt. I used Chromecast to play music over the HT-A7000 from varied Chromecast apps similar to Amazon Music and the soundbar treats all the assorted wi-fi music with the identical Immersive AE results as every little thing else, plus reveals album artwork and onscreen controls when the TV is linked. Nonetheless, Chromecast doesn’t work that properly on my Android cellphone—the sound steadily hangs—so it was higher to attach the cellphone over Bluetooth 5.0. The soundbar’s Bluetooth connection (that includes SBC, AAC, and the higher-resolution LDAC codec, which I used) sounds wonderful and performs splendidly—simply nearly as good because it did taking part in the identical supply via the analog audio enter.

top angle of the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar
Wi-fi playback, in addition to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant help, enable for extra management and fewer litter.

Sensible options

With slightly little bit of endurance throughout setup, you too can use voice management for the HT-A7000 over Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant on cellular units. First, ensure Alexa or Google Assistant is put in in your cellular gadget and that it’s linked to the identical Wi-Fi community because the soundbar. Then join Alexa/Google Assistant to the soundbar via the Sony Music Heart app. As soon as via setup, you should use voice instructions similar to subsequent/earlier tune and quantity management.

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The Sony HT-A7000’s sound

The Sony HT-A7000 is the flagship Sony soundbar and I wished to check it by itself earlier than hooking up elective parts. As a result of the HT-A7000 handles the flaming-hot Dolby Atmos surround-sound format, I threw a whole lot of Atmos-encoded films and music at it, whereas additionally utilizing it for regular TV and music, most of which was not made for Atmos or Sony 360 Actuality Audio.

As soon as you know the way to play Atmos-encoded materials efficiently, you may benefit from a quickly rising physique of labor—notably for films and TV, but in addition now for music as properly. The Atmos films I watched included the brand new Dune, Military of Thieves, Uncut Gems, Finch, and No Time to Die. For Atmos music, I dove into Tidal HiFi Plus’s New Arrivals playlist, which plugs new tracks from widespread artists similar to Publish Malone/The Weeknd, Terrace Martin, Lorde, Sigrid, Child Cudi, and even new tracks from outdated favorites like Diana Ross, Abba, U2, and Robert Plant/Alison Krauss.

Even with non-Atmos media, the HT-A7000’s Immersive AE impact makes wonderful use of the top-and side-firing drivers to create an enveloping soundstage than they’d be when listening to lesser-equipped soundbars or the most effective bookshelf audio system. The HT-A7000 creates a big candy spot that I estimate as a spherical house with a radius of three to 4 ft, the place listeners can take pleasure in near the optimum listening expertise.

With the Atmos format (or the much less widespread Sony 360 Actuality Audio) the HT-A7000 actually shines. It was a deal with to look at big-budget films that clearly put consideration into Atmos sound mixing. In Dune, the rotary dirge of the dragonfly-like ornithopters, the paranormal voices throughout Paul Atreides’ hallucinations, and the desert-shaking actions of the sandworms took on a multidimensional realism as sounds scattered over, round, and thru the room. 

Throughout Finch, it was the Atmos spaciousness that heightened the stress in moments just like the twister scene, when objects and particles are swirling round and metal cables break beneath the stress. In fact, the most recent James Bond romp No Time To Die has loads of bullets, explosions, plane, tire-screeching automobile chases, overhead glass breaking, and water deluges to take advantage of the Atmos capabilities as properly.

The soundbar’s facet channels expertly ship indicators across the sides of a reasonably sized lounge. The highest channels for overhead results are additionally profitable, however not as immersive as with a completely outfitted Atmos cinema or dwelling theater, the place the audio system are literally overhead. However the HT-A7000 is way extra gratifying than watching films with TV audio system, stereo audio system, or soundbars with out top- and side-firing audio system. As one other bonus, quiet film dialog that’s usually laborious to discern when utilizing stereo audio system is far clearer when the sound combine is unfold out to a multichannel format like Atmos.

With its 500W of complete output energy, the HT-A7000 handles music fantastically, whether or not by itself or in a film. Evocative soundtracks like Hans Zimmer’s otherworldly Dune rating or Daniel Lopatin’s synthesizer opus for Uncut Gems profit from the Atmos soundstage, as notes grasp within the air, oscillating between factors of house. It was additionally attention-grabbing to listen to the completely different approaches to Atmos mixing from the Tidal playlist. Some tracks performed with the immersive format—sending vocals, percussion hits, and different sounds zipping round in house—whereas different songs took a really simple strategy to changing stereo materials in a fundamental approach that provides extra spatial depth.

By way of audio high quality, Sony endows the HT-A7000 with a well-balanced, clear, and detailed sound that precisely portrays the entire vary of frequencies. Turning the Immersive AE impact on appears so as to add some pleasure to the top-end frequencies, however I didn’t thoughts the enhance. The soundbar has a built-in subwoofer that does a good job with bass, however not as a lot bass (or general energy) because the a lot bigger and dearer Sennheiser AMBEO, which might positively be thought-about the most effective soundbars when you have the house and $2,499 price range for it. The AMBEO additionally has higher projecting top-firing audio system, making it in my view the créme de la créme of standalone, self-contained soundbars for Atmos materials. Nonetheless, whenever you broaden the HT-A7000 with a subwoofer and rear audio system, the mixed system has a bigger immersive soundstage and rather more bass than the AMBEO.

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Sony speaker on a desk.
In the event you’re trying to stage up the immersive audio much more, you may add rear audio system and a wi-fi subwoofer.

Increasing the setup

Whereas the Sony HT-A7000 by itself checks all of the bins for a house theater and music-listening soundbar, there’s no query that including the Sony SA-SW5 wi-fi subwoofer and the Sony SA-RS3S wi-fi rear audio system enhanced the general expertise. All the advantages of Atmos, different sorts of {surround} sound, and the Immersive AE impact have been amplified with the rear audio system. Even when listening to plain stereo music, I most well-liked turning on the Immersive AE setting, which provides the soundbar’s high audio system and SA-RS3S rear audio system to the combination.

With out an SA-SW5 (300W) or SA-SW3 (200W) subwoofer, the HT-A7000’s bass from its built-in subwoofer is merely useful—an enchancment over TV audio system for representing the fundamental low-end profile of music and film soundtracks. However for critical music lovers and cinephiles who need to hear the bottom of frequencies and, simply as importantly, really feel the rumble of the onscreen motion and of crowd-rocking tunes, the added subwoofer—which reaches all the way down to 28Hz—performs admirably.

I examined the SA-SW5—a strong black block measuring 19 by 19 by 14.5 inches and weighing a chunky 37 kilos to accommodate a 7.1-inch woofer. Its major cupboard is elevated off the ground and, quite than having a entrance or rear bass reflex port, it’s an omnidirectional design that’s alleged to unfold the sound wider. No matter technological claims, its bass sounds clean, wealthy, and completely huge whenever you crank it up. Whereas watching Military of Thieves—the bank-heist prequel to Military of the Useless—I let the subwoofer’s quantity actually rip and, certain sufficient, for the primary time in eight years of residing in my condominium, the neighbors got here a-knockin’. 

In the event you additionally need to conjure up a go to, combining the HT-A7000 with both the Sony SA-SW5 or Sony SA-SW3 wi-fi subwoofers and/or the Sony SA-RS3S wi-fi rear audio system is simple. Simply plug in and place the audio system, energy them on, and their indicator lights will flash inexperienced till the soundbar mechanically acknowledges them. Then you may re-run the room configuration course of with the extra audio system linked. The soundbar’s distant has devoted quantity buttons for each the rear audio system and the subwoofer, so yow will discover the right combination on your style.

subwoofer for a soundbar
Two suitable subs allow you to increase the soundbar to summon-the-neighbors ranges of rumble.

So, who can purchase the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar?

By itself, the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar outputs a really spacious soundstage for immersive surround-sound codecs and transformed audio, with wide-reaching facet audio system and efficient high channels. It’s highly effective sufficient to saturate most residing rooms and media areas with immersive audio and has a bass response from its built-in subwoofer that improves upon TV audio system and plenty of different standalone soundbars. Compared, the dearer Sennheiser AMBEO has deeper bass, extra highly effective output, and a extra expansive 3D soundstage. 

Customers who will need to have absolutely the pinnacle of an Atmos expertise in a single (though enormous) unit ought to think about the AMBEO. Though a standalone Sony HT-A7000 will get you a lot of the strategy to the AMBEO at vital financial savings in price, including a Sony subwoofer and rear audio system to the soundbar provides you theatrical-style bass rumble and extra depth to the soundstage at a complete funding just like the AMBEO—give or take relying on the subwoofer mannequin. For many who have the out there house, price range, and appreciation for big, well-formed bass and a complete, {surround} soundstage, nonetheless, I positively advocate increasing the system with the SA-RS3S rear audio system and one of many suitable Sony subwoofers. Such a configuration is a extremely spectacular system with a easy, wi-fi setup and a small-to-moderate footprint.